The real question would be why did I not see a single one of these Best Picture movies? Or most of the rest of the categories to boot? I am dragging my feet on tracking down these movies and seeing all of them, but I’m sick of the effort. It’s spring/suddenly summer and I’d rather garden. But let’s look at the list:
“Call me by Your Name”—I thought about getting to the theater for this one for the Italian setting, but it was about a gay love affair and I backed off. I know, not PC. But when I saw it, I liked it for the setting, the nostalgia it engendered in me for northern Italy, an area I had lived for 4 years. Everything was correct and beautiful, except the sickening rich spoiled people I can never stand in James Ivory movies. I questioned if these Italian youngsters still in high school would be openly smoking and going to what looked like bars, and having sex—with no thought of protection. I guess this was back before sexual diseases hit the scene and now you’d have to be suicidal to have unprotected sex. But there’s still pregnancy and these girls seemed really careless. Then we have the actual homosexual affair and the younger boy’s broken heart and misery. This was an OK story, but per Ivory films, so glossed over with lovely unreality. That mother smoked like a chimney, every minute, right through meals and all the time. Yet she appears young and pretty. Give me a break: smoking like that, she should have looked like an 80-year-old crone. Everyone in Italy smokes like a maniac and this was correct. Yet I doubted the children could be. I don’t even know how this got into the final batch of winners. The boy bawling at the end for 10 minutes was hardly necessary, like we got it already: love is painful.
“Darkest Hour”—Just too dark for me. About war and I don’t go to those and will not see it.
“Get Out”—I regret I did not go to the theater for this so that I could share the scares and surprises with an audience. I don’t know why I didn’t go, I guess because I don’t go in for horror shows per se. BUT this was the most brilliant film in the whole list. Embedded in its surface story of crazy white people harvesting black bodies for parts (it’s old enough, you don’t need a spoiler alert), there is the absolute intelligence of what racism has done to the Afro-American people in this country. Use them for their athleticism, their music, their sex, everything. Harvest them, use them up. Early in the plot when our character (played by Daniel Kaluuza who was at least nominated for best actor) goes to meet the rich parents of his white girl friend, the father points to a door in the house and says, “This is sealed up. Problems of black mold down there.” Even at the time, I thought, brilliant! The metaphor of American racism. Later when we come to learn what is really down in the basement, oh my god, is it ever black mold! This movie more than any other in my opinion, should have won. The production is excellent, the plot scary and engaging, the message profound. At least Jordon Peele won for best original screenplay and was nominated for best director. Daniel Kaluuza was nominated for best actor. BUT THIS MOVIE SHOULD HAVE WON BEST PICTURE!!!
“Lady Bird”—the trailer showed a TEEN girl talking back to her mother. I had no desire to see this. Outside of the fact that this sadly is a metaphor (I don’t think the writer and director know this) of our current culture: the youth are yanking us around and telling us what to do. Respect for the elders has long been gone and it gets worse all the time. Just because they can manage the technology doesn’t really make them smarter. One day there will be a movie about this similar to “Get Out”—the old people running for their lives. The screenwriter and director Greta Gerwig co-wrote and acted in the brilliant “Frances, Ha” so maybe I will relent and see this, although I have seen enough teen coming of age movies to last me till I die. Saoirse Ronan was nominated for best actress and Gerwig for best director. (I have to amend that attitude about the youth: I am very proud of them leading the campaign for some gun control, like stop killing us. Good for them!)
“Phantom Thread”—Now here is a scary movie! Holy s***, is this not the most frightening relationship you’ve seen since “Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf?”! The man, Reynolds Woodcock, is a famous, fussy dress maker/fashion designer who likes to control everything around him. Everything. Except when he picks up Alma (played by Vicky Krieps (and why wasn’t she nominated?) from her waitress job and turns her into his mannequin muse. This movie was nominated for six academy awards (best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actress Lesley Manville [as the sister Cyril whom Woodcock calls “you old so and so”] best original score, and it won for best costume design), the most notable is actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who has quite a task of dominating the story and making you love and hate this man for his prissy misogynistic artistic brilliance. Too bad Alma (of unknown not-British origins) can’t have a personality. When she figures out a way to control him, I thought this movie might redeem itself: There, take that, you controlling brute! But no, then it gets twisted to Woodcock (dig the name: wood cock) to that HE consents to this madness of hers, like he needs to be brought to the brink of death to recharge his artistic brilliance. Director Paul Thomas Anderson has created a beautiful movie with hidden threads of nastiness woven in. Man is genius, everyone else just shut the hell up. I don’t know if the AA committee really got this or else it just didn’t really want this weirdness to win best picture. It is a beautiful and complex film, just think about it.
“The Post”—I still haven’t seen it but, I suspect I will have no quibble about anything. Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in the Watergate story. I guess I felt like haven’t we seen this already in “All the President’s Men” and the new “Mark Felt: the Man who Brought Down the White House”? Nevertheless, I will see it.
“The Shape of Water”—Here was the only film I might have gone to the theater to see because of some vague paranormal themes, but the trailer made me think it looked stupid. I cannot believe this movie won. CAN’T BELIEVE IT, forgive me while I rant. It looked stupid to me and then watching the movie, when Elisa brings the Amphibian Man, a scale covered sea monster they found in South America, to her apartment and parks him in salt water in her bathtub—like wouldn’t this render the tub a bit unusable? And the rest of the bathroom too? Dumb. Even dumber, when she floods the whole bathroom so the sea thing and she can have sex under water. Let’s not think about how the apartments upstairs and the downstairs movie theater are ruined, but not a thought toward this reality or how the building would need Haz Mat salvation and the owner might be a little mad…. I loved Sally Hawkins in “Maudie” but I think she might want to get a role playing someone normal for once. In the story, no one really gets mad at this stupidity of Elisa’s and how it jeopardizes people’s jobs and their very lives. I could have believed in this movie’s premise more if she had been more considerate of other people instead of steam rolling over them to save her “monster.” I felt sorry for Octavia Spencer (nominated for best supporting actress), playing the usual black woman stuck in some shit job (literally) with a brute of a husband and then she has to make smart ass remarks to Elisa about the downtrodden life she lives and the ways of the world. Zelda speaks for the mute Elisa all the time while Elisa dances around, stupidly getting the same dessert with her homosexual friend Giles, (Richard Jenkins whose character narrates the events as befitting a fairy tale and was nominated for best supporting actor), which apparently both are too dumb to realize she doesn’t like and they save them! Another stupid thing I didn’t think was funny. People tell me this is a wonderful fantasy fable with this great premise that we should be open to things we might not understand (aliens as in foreigners, aliens as in from outer space, creatures not exactly human but interesting and wonderful in their own right), and yes, that is great, but why make Elisa such a twit? The main villain is a sadist racist named Strickland (Michael Shannon) who wants the thing killed and/or is negotiating with the Russians to send the thing up in space, cuz hey, what loss would it be? It is 1962 the time of the space race and the Cold War. Their world is in underground tunnels of a Baltimore-based corporation engaged in some kind of research. All dark and murky. This movie won best picture, was nominated for Sally Hawkins best actress, best director Guillermo del Toro, and many nominations for production and design achievements. Just like the AA committee and America to award a fairy tale and not look at something relevant like “Get Out!” Better to check out del Toro’s earlier movie “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Many times, don’t you feel like it was just time to recognize a person and they win for the wrong movie?
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”—I heard this was extremely depressing, but it wasn’t really. There were some unlikely elements that would make everything come out all right. Frances McDormand won for best actress and she deserves it, although probably one of those timing things. Both Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell were nominated for best supporting male actor roles, with Sam winning. In this story, the lead character is Mildred Hayes, a mother whose daughter had been killed and raped. She started all the trouble with her three billboards:
Raped while dying
And still no arrests?
How come, Chief Willoughby?
These set off a storm of accusations and escalating revenge, but Mildred loses me when she fire bombs the police station. Really? And gets away with it?! While I loved the intelligence of the police chief (Woody’s role), I had my doubts that his insight could really turn around the racist and brutal police behaviors of deputy Dixon (Sam’s character). All too convenient, but at least with all these twists and turns in the plot, there was a nice focus on the characters and a realistic look at how hard it is to track down the criminals, especially in a small town with limited resources. Especially then when someone blows up the police station. Some of those quirky elements I mentioned. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, whose work I will check out.
There it is, for what it’s worth. All in my humble opinion. Next I am onto the fabulous documentary called “Wild, Wild Country.” Coming sooner than this exploration did.